Touring Europe May 2004
This whole trip worked out the way it did because Betty found a deal on airfare to London. Our original plan was to fly to either Frankfurt Germany or Zurich Switzerland. We always prefer the flexibility of having our own car so I started looking into rates.
I found out that Hertz had a program called "Le Swap." This allows you to rent a right hand drive car at Heathrow in London, take it through the Chunnel and exchange it in France for a left hand drive. For a little over $700 US we had a car for two weeks and two passes to take it back and forth through the Channel Tunnel.
There were a couple of drawbacks to the program. Number one the only car they would give us was a hatchback with standard drive. We prefer a car with a trunk so our luggage is locked away out of sight and I would have preferred an automatic transmission. Shifting with your left hand while driving on the left and steering with your right takes a lot of concentration when you’re not used to driving that way.
The other problem was that very few people at Hertz knew anything about “Le Swap”. It took us over two hours to get the contract written up at Heathrow, get a car and get on our way. That was a little hard to handle as tired as we were from our long flight. Then when we exchanged the car in Calais we asked if we would get the same car when we came back. We were told no we would not. Sure enough on our return Calais gave us a different car. When we got back to Heathrow they told us we had the wrong car and didn’t want to accept it. We finally told them to do whatever they wanted, we had a plane to catch. I even had to argue with them to get a receipt showing that we did return a car and that it was in good shape. That was the last we heard of it.
The rest of the trip went smoothly. Putting the car on the train to go through the Chunnel was a lot like putting one on a ferry. There were plenty of signs showing us how to get there and loading and unloading was simple. The whole thing took less than an hour. We stayed in the smaller hotels and Gasthaus's throughout Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg. All of them were very clean, had a view of either a river or a lake and on the average cost less than $100 a night including breakfast.